The movie 1408 is one of those single-location horrors that just work. This is a simple and very effective movie featuring a gloomy and uncompromising atmosphere. And it remains true to this dark vision until the end. Something I’ve come to respect in horror movies over the years. Oftentimes they create this sense of evil and then walk back into the light during the final third. This is not one of those movies. Which is not surprising considering it’s based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name. We will be following Mike Enslin, a paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in the supernatural as he stumbles upon something odd and terrifying.
I got this terrible toothache in the middle of the night and I knew right then and there that this is going to be one of those sleepless nights. So, to pass the time until the morning I had to choose a good movie. A movie that’s going to keep my attention and offer more than cheap scares. I already wrote how just a couple of years ago, I went through my French noir phase during a much bigger trouble. Hell, it beats looking at a ceiling or nighttime television any day of the week. I picked the movie 1408 and I haven’t regretted it. Not only this is an effective haunted house or, in this case, a haunted hotel room, movie but it’s also a movie exploring grief, trauma, and our coping mechanisms.
This gives it more oomph and makes it feel much more serious than its basic premise. John Cusack gave a phenomenal performance as this cynical writer who doesn’t believe in anything. And he had to since we will be watching him trying to survive in that haunted room for most of the time. I also don’t want you to think that this is going to be a dull or boring affair as it most certainly is not. I would compare it to Fincher’s Panic Room, another movie taking place in a single location that’s completely enthralling. Samuel L. Jackson was usually good as the hotel manager and Tony Shalhoub also made the most of his short screen time.
Meet Mike Enslin, a cynical writer who doesn’t believe in the supernatural but still writes about it. He sleeps in places rumored to be haunted, certain that he won’t meet any ghosts there. And this is how he approached his latest place of interest, the Hotel Dolphin and its infamous room 1408. Everybody who works at that hotel tried to convince him not to go to that room. However, Mike is a persistent fellow and he manages to book it for tonight. At first, everything seemed okay but then strange things started happening.
When you look at the story as a whole, you can see certain parallels with another Stephen King adaptation In The Mouth of Madness. Starring Sam Neill, that movie also follows a writer as he finds himself in this nightmarish realm. Although it offers a more vibrant and sprawling story under the direction of the master of horror, John Carpenter. I would also like to mention The Skeleton Key, another dark single-location horror that came out just two years earlier. These two movies are also good recommendations if you’re looking for something similar to 1408. Although I would say that this is a unique example of haunted house horror.
You will get a sense that the room is just plain fucking evil, torturing this man just for the fun of it. The atmosphere is intense and unsettling. You feel this constant tension like things can go from bad to worse at any moment. I also urge you to watch the director’s cut of the movie 1408 as it’s much more impactful than the regular, theatrical version. Finally, I would like to add that this movie does have some basis in reality. King drew inspiration from parapsychologist Christopher Chacon’s investigation of the most haunted hotels in the world. Among them is the infamous The Cecil Hotel featured in the recent Netflix documentary Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.
Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub, Len Cariou, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Fun Facts: Throughout the movie there are numerous referances to the number 13. Try to spot them all.